Gladstonian Liberalism, public service and private interests
Reforming endowments
in The many lives of corruption
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Corruption is fundamentally about the blurring of the distinction between public life and private interests. In Victorian Britain the reform of endowed institutions was a key arena for the renegotiation of these boundaries, and it was one that sharply divided Liberals from Conservatives. A series of controversies pitted the Liberals’ reforming programme against the Conservative defence of endowments. These included the opening up of Oxford and Cambridge to non-Anglicans, the disendowment of the Irish church, the secularisation of the governing bodies of endowed schools under the terms of the Endowed Schools Act of 1869 and the abortive attempt in the 1880s to assert public control over the endowments of the City livery companies. This chapter elucidates the distinctive position developed by Gladstonian Liberals on the question of endowments. It focuses in particular on the stance taken by a number of Gladstonians and their role in endowment controversies, notably through their work on a sequence of royal commissions – among them key figures such as Lord Lyttelton, James Bryce, Henry Roby and Joshua Fitch. In doing so, the chapter deepens our understanding of some of the forgotten dimensions of institutional reform in Victorian Britain, and the distinctive contribution of Gladstonian Liberalism to shaping modern notions of public service and corruption.

The many lives of corruption

The reform of public life in modern Britain, 1750–1950

Editors: Ian Cawood and Tom Crook

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